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Intelligencer editorial, June 7, 2008
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Intelligencer editorial, June 7, 2008

Good money after bad?

Controversial voting machines get more funding

Bucks County stands to get more than a half-million dollars from the federal government as its share of interest on federal money distributed by the state for electronic voting machines.

There are some limits on how the money can be used. County elections director Deena Dean has recommended that most of the money be used to offset the purchase of the Danaher electronic machines, which replaced the county's 50-year-old mechanical lever machines, and extend the warranty on them.

One problem with that recommendation, and it could be a big problem depending on your point of view, is that the Danaher machines have been the target of much criticism, not only here in Bucks but nationally, because they do not provide a voter-verified paper record, thus making their reliability highly suspect. The machines also have been panned for their internal programming and their potential susceptibility to tampering. A couple of other states that had bought the machines have already gotten rid of them. Because of the widespread use of electronic machines in the commonwealth, Pennsylvania has been rated as one of the states where the reliability of the vote can be seriously questioned.

The Coalition for Voting Integrity was the most outspoken group in trying to convince county officials that the Danaher machines were a bad investment. Since the county went ahead with the purchase anyway, the coalition has continued its efforts to have them replaced, preferably with an optical scanner system that counts the ballots that voters have filled out and retains those ballots for verification and recount purposes.

Republican county Commissioners Charley Martin and Jim Cawley, who have been supporters of the electronic machines from the get-go, voted to accept the federal money and will likely use it as Dean suggested. Democratic Commissioner Diane Marseglia cast her vote against accepting most of the money because she believes the county should take another hard look at the new voting machines in light of all the controversy and dissatisfaction with them.

By taking the money and using it to offset the purchase price of the new machines, the majority commissioners are reaffirming their belief in the technology and their own decision to buy it, notwithstanding worry about the efficacy of the machines that seems to be growing as we learn more about them. If you're one of those who believes the county dug itself a hole when it went to electronic voting, then spending more money on it only represents digging the hole deeper.

We think there's more than enough evidence, documented and anecdotal, to prompt the commissioners to “reopen this case” rather than to continue blowing off critics with the attitude “we know best.”


Article's URL: 
http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/266-06072008-1545579.html